Monday, January 30, 2012

Manic Monday: Wag More

On this Monday, last one in January, 2012, I feel bogged down with more work than I think I can do. I'm editing two different novels right now, the day job, marketing and social media - oh, and raising my daughter and taking care of a household. You know - the usual.

The bright desert sun outside beckons me to play but a Midwestern work ethic nudges me to stay in, chained to the office chair. As I look at the pile of receipts and paperwork on my desk reminding me that tax season is upon me, I begin to feel overwhelmed.

Can you relate?

And yet I know this to be true:
It's the journey, not the destination. And the journey includes paperwork and jobs and to-do lists and bills to pay and kids and pets and family that need our attention even when we're a little too tired to give it.

The good, the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. The profound and the mundane. The pizza and the beer.

Okay, pizza and beer aren't opposites, but they sure do sound good right now.

Anyway, you get the picture. We all know this. But for me at least, it can't be repeated enough because it is so easy to allow the disturbances of our day detour us away from the joy of our time here. No matter how long you live, the journey here is brief. And oh, so wonderful - even when you wish you could drive a tank through rush-hour traffic.

Enjoy the journey.

So what, you are asking, is up with the video of your dog up there?

That's my dog Molly. She's going to be 14 this year. I got her from my local Humane Society shelter when she was a pup. Molly is pure joy covered in fur.
This video is me trying to capture one of those things in my life that reminds me daily how good it is to be alive.

Molly will wag just because I look at her. I look away and she stops wagging. I turn back to face her and she wags again.

All I have to do is look at her to make her happy. No dog treats were eaten in the filming of this video! I have no food out for her; no promise of yummies.

Just seeing my face makes her happy.

Isn't that an amazing gift for me.

I have someone in my life for whom the mere sight of me makes her happy.

Maybe we should all be more like Molly with each other. Maybe if we smiled at the mere sight of our loved ones, they would be happier. And we'd be happier because we were smiling. And they'd be happier because we were smiling at them. Wags all around.

I'm smiling at you right now : D

Do you have a special critter in your life that makes your day brighter, your face happier? Or a special person that always manages to bring out the best in you? 

I love comments and to hear your stories. And to spread the joy your comments bring, everyone who leaves a comment on a post from now through February 29 will be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of my novel, Emily's House. And for every 100 comments in that time, I'll offer another book. So spread the word, leave your comments and make me give away my books for free!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Book Review: Gears of Wonderland

I draw my Steampunk Week to a close with a review of Gears of Wonderland by Jason G. Anderson. Jason stopped by my blog Wednesday and if you missed it, check out my interview of him here.

Here's the premise: Wonderland - you know, from Alice in Wonderland - is a real place. Yes, you can go down that rabbit hole. And when Alice went there, her visit changed Wonderland.
Enter our protagonist, James. James is an ordinary guy that finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up going down the rabbit hole. James' trip to Wonderland shows a changed world, one now seen through the eyes of an adult. All the old characters are there: White Rabbit, Caterpiller, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter and the rest. But author Anderson also introduces us to delightful new characters. 

Oh, and did I mention it all has a steampunk vibe? So imagine entering Wonderland made over with a Victorian, steampunk twist. Are there corsets you ask? Yes there are. Are there fun gadgets and machines? Yes, the story has those too.

Gears of Wonderland is a page-turning action adventure with a regular guy turned action hero. I found James, the main character, delightful and unassuming. Anderson also introduces us to the Mad Hatter's daughter, Kara, who helps James navigate the world of Wonderland. Kara is a gritty female character and a great counterpoint to James.

For me, while Wonderland was an interesting backdrop for the story and it was fun meeting the C.S. Lewis characters from a new perspective, Anderson's original new characters are what make the story interesting.

Jason Anderson is a gifted author and he wove a delightful tale in Gears of Wonderland. My only complaint with the story is that it seemed to lag for me toward the end. At that point I wanted less description and more action to pull me to the end. But the end itself was satisfying and I think the book ends in such a way that the author has left himself room for additional adventures with the wonderful characters.

Lastly I will say that I've read quite a few self-pubbed books over the past year and Gears of Wonderland stands out as one of the most well-written (and well formatted and edited) self-pubbed books of the Year of the Indie.

If you like Alice in Wonderland, you should definitely read this book. If you like Steampunk, you should definitely read this book. 

And if you just want a fun adventure of a story, you should definitely read this book.

This book gets 5 Hawks!

Next week on Natalie Wright's YA - 

Writer Chat Wednesday with Addison Moore!!!! YA-Indie-Phenom with news about her story going to the screen!

And here's the video version of this review in case you don't feel like reading ;-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writer Chat Wednesday with Jason G. Anderson, author of Gears of Wonderland

Welcome to Writer Chat Wednesday! Continuing with Steampunk week, I chat today with Jason G. Anderson, author of Gears of Wonderland, a wonderfully fun steampunk tale set in Wonderland. Jason is an imaginative storyteller and I'm so psyched that he took a moment to visit with me. Come back Friday for my review of Gears of Wonderland

Natalie Wright (NW): When and how did you become interested in Steampunk? For anyone interested in reading books in the Steampunk genre, can you recommend some good ones that you enjoyed?

JASON ANDERSON (JA): My initial interest in steampunk came purely from the visual aspect. The Victorian-but-not clothing, the strange machines, the bizarre city scenes with airships and other unusual elements in the picture, etc. Then I read (and watched) various steampunk, or steampunk inspired, stories, and became hooked.

One book I whole-heartedly recommend is by indie-author SM Reine. It’s a novella I read over Christmas, titled “The 19 Dragons”. As the name suggests, the story focuses on 19 dragons, but they all live in a unique steampunk world that depends on them remaining alive for it to exist. Which isn’t good when someone starts killing the dragons one by one! The story itself is crafted in a very unusual way, as it switches viewpoint to each of the dragons in turn to tell the tale. I loved it, and highly recommend it to everyone remotely interested in the steampunk genre.

NW: What inspired you to write Gears of Wonderland?

JA: Back in October 2010 I was getting ready to take part in NaNoWriMo, planning out the story I was going to write (totally unrelated to Wonderland or steampunk). Then I saw the SyFy version of Alice, and immediately got struck by the idea of a Wonderland that had aged and changed along with our world. I tried to ignore it, and focus on my original story idea, but the thought just wouldn’t get out of my head. So I began developing the idea further, and it was the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo.

The two core ideas I had was the Knave of Hearts taking over Wonderland, and that the land had gone down the steampunk route (since the original stories were written in the Victorian period). Everything else came later. The final published version isn’t too different to what I had at the end of NaNoWriMo. I reworked parts of the first quarter of the story, and added a few extra scenes throughout the rest, but it didn’t end up changing much at all.

Actually, I lie. The first draft of Gears didn’t have the White Rabbit in the story at all. That was a real head-slap moment for me when I realized – how can you have a story about Wonderland that doesn’t have the White Rabbit? So he got worked into the story during the revision.

Another thing that changed was the title. My original working title was Wonderland in Darkness, but I figured it was rather uninspiring, and didn’t convey the steampunk aspect. So I changed it to the current title as I approached the end of the first draft.

NW: Laura, James' girlfriend, is such a -- difficult -- woman. I was happy when James, early on, had an opportunity to get a break from her! Is the Laura character based on any real life girlfriend(s)?

JA: “Difficult” is one word to describe her! No, Laura isn’t based on anyone I know. Some nasty people have claimed that I must be writing about my wife, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I wanted the opening scenes of the novel, with James’s boss and Laura, to show how submissive James was at this point in his life. He was unwilling to fight for the things he wanted, or even consider ‘rocking the boat’, no matter how bad their demands became. Wonderland becomes a chance for him to leave those habits (mostly) behind, and grow in confidence.

NW: Will you write a sequel to Gears of Wonderland?

JA: That is my current plan. I didn’t set out to write a series originally, but I had a lot of fun working with the characters as I was revising the book into its final form that I’d like to go back to the setting. A few people have also asked about a sequel, so it seems to have struck a chord with a few readers at least.

I have a few ideas floating around in my mind on what the sequel could be about (the fallout from what happened at the end of the novel, and Kara’s search for her mother), but nothing solid yet. I’ve got to survive my current WIP first!

NW: Why did you choose to self-publish? And are you interested in pursuing a traditional publishing contract?

JA: To be honest, I decided to self-publish because I couldn’t imagine being a traditionally published author!

I’ve always been a fan of having full control over whatever I create. Back when I went to university, I wrote software for Apple computers that I sold online as “shareware” (basically you download the program to try it out first, and if you like it you buy it from the author). More recently, I wrote several small roleplay gaming supplements, that I sold as PDF.

When the urge to write novels became too large to ignore, being an indie author didn’t seem much different to what I’d done before. That’s not to say that I’d never accept a traditional publishing contract. But they would have to offer me much better than their “standard” terms to entice me. And whatever they offered would have to not screw over my current readers (unlike a current indie-turned-traditional author that my wife was a fan of, who signed a deal that blocks sales of their current & future books outside of the US).

NW: You live in Tasmania, which is so far away from so many places! Have you always lived there? And does your environment inspire your writing at all?

JA: We’re not that far away from the rest of the world :)

Yep, I was born in Tasmania, although at the opposite end of the state (Devonport). I moved to Hobart, the state capital, to attend university. After I graduated I managed to find a job down here, so I stayed. I also met my future wife at university, which was another reason not to move back to my parents place!

I don’t really know that I could say the environment has inspired my writing that much. I guess because Tasmania doesn’t have the level of development, or the large cities, that other places have, I tend to think more in terms of open spaces and green surrounds (which featured in Gears). I can’t say that it’s helped with my post-apocalyptic short stories though :)

NW: Will you write more books in the Steampunk genre? And/or what other genres do you write in?

JA: Other than the sequel to Gears, I’m not sure if I’ll write more in the steampunk genre, at least in the near-future. While it’s not the wisest idea to spread yourself over different genres, the next few ideas I have for books are in the sci-fi and urban fantasy genres. Plus I have my Atomic Wasteland series of short stories, which are all set in a post-apocalyptic world.

It all depends how strong the idea for the story is when it comes time for me to start a new book I guess!

NW: What are you working on now? Can we look forward to any new titles from you soon?

JA: I’m currently working on a sci-fi thriller titled “On Ice”. It’s about a group of scientists who are studying the polar region of an uninhabited alien planet. They become cut off from the main base of the (planet-wide) expedition, and have to deal with a situation that goes from bad to worse very quickly. As people start dying, they begin to realize that there may be a reason the planet is uninhabited!

The novel in part is inspired by my own work. I work in the Antarctic science field (as an assistant, not a scientist), and wanted to write about something that was ice-related. Setting it in modern-day Antarctica didn’t appeal, but putting it in the future did. I’ve been able to talk with a few people who have spent time “in the field”, to get a feel of what it’s like to work in that sort of environment. Hopefully I won’t mess up too much of what they told me! :)

I’m frantically working on the book now, and hope to have it out sometime in April.

Thanks Jason for stopping by. I'm looking forward to reading On Ice and hope you'll stop back then to chat about it.

Until then, check out all of Jason's titles:

You can connect with Jason here:


Jason G. Anderson lives in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia with his wife and several cats. During the day, he helps Antarctic scientists manage the vast quantities of data they collect. At night, he dreams of other worlds and realities much different to our own. His writing interests include sci-fi, urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic and steampunk.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Manic Monday: What is Steampunk Anyway?

Welcome to Steampunk week on Natalie Wright's YA blog! This week is all about Victorian fashion, gears, rivets and steam powered machines. And in today's post I present a Steampunk primer for those of you reading this that don't know what the heck I'm talking about when I say steampunk.
Is steampunk a sub-genre of fiction? A fashion? A philosophy? Or a subculture?
The short answer: It's all of those things.

First and foremost, steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy fiction. Steampunk fiction generally includes social, fashion and technology of the last 19th century (think Victorian era) but with some kind of rebellion against at least parts of it. Put these two ideas together and you get steampunk. But of course once we define the genre, you'll be able to find scads of books that defy the definition I've just given and still end up being steampunk. The genre grows and morphs and branches out in yet still more subgenres so we now have steampunk romance, steampunk erotica and steampunk young adult fiction. And steampunk can take place in the future or on other planets. So maybe the best way to define steampunk is to look at the visuals that go with it.
A Steampunk Wedding

Steampunk has bloomed into much more than just a sub-genre of fantasy fiction. Steampunk has emerged as a bonafide fashion culture as well. Steampunk is what happens when you take Victorian clothes and merge them with gears and gadgets and goggles - always the goggles. If you play World of Warcraft, the gnomes and their world are definitely steampunk! As a fashion, it's about modifying the clothes yourself to create something that may merge old and new. Oh, and corsets. I have to mention corsets. Take goggles, a corset and throw in a top hat and you're on your way to a steampunk look.

steampunk spiderSteampunk isn't just for wearing though. People who like to tinker and build find creative outlet by taking new, modern objects and injecting an old-world feel through layering on steampunk materials - wood, brass and gears especially. The result are things like a steampunk mouse or keyboard or laptop. Check out this steampunk spider. How creepy and cool is this?

Like many great things that start out in fiction and make their way to the collective, steampunk has become synonymous with more than just fiction or fashion. Steampunk has become, for some, a way of life. It's not just about how they dress or fashion their modern tools. Steampunk has come to represent for some a way to re-think how we live in our modern age. It's like a forward thinking but backward looking philosophy.

Okay, for some it's just fashion, not philosophy.

Even if you have never heard the term steampunk before, you've probably seen it all around you. If you watch movies, you've seen steampunk fashion and vision. The Lilliputians in the movie Gulliver's Travels with Jack Black - they were steampunk. And recently I saw The Three Musketeers (an awful movie by the way), but it had a steam-powered flying ship. That was steampunk. Though I have not yet read it, the covers of Clockwork Prince certainly looks steampunk. If you've read it, leave me a comment and let me know if I'm right or wrong about that.

And in case you missed it, steampunk has been co-opted by the Mr. Hairdo himself, Justin Bieber, in his video for the song Santa Claus is Coming to Town. If you can't stand to listen, just turn down the sound but look at the fashion and props - it's steampunk.

If Bieber is going steampunk, does that mean it's no longer a sub-culture?

If you want to learn more, check out the site It's a well-done site with lots of great information.

And stay tuned here on Natalie Wright's YA for more of Steampunk Week. Wednesday, I'll interview author Jason G. Anderson and discuss his first steampunk novel, Gears of Wonderland. And Friday I'll review said book.

I love to hear from you so post a comment. Are you steampunk? If you have photos of steampunk fashion or gear you'd like to share, post it here or on my Facebook author page.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Book Review: The Night Circus

This week's Friday review - The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

The Night Circus is a wholly original novel, unlike anything I've read before. While I enjoyed it very much (so much in fact that I initially borrowed it from the library but decided to buy the hardcover because I know I'll read it again), this book is not for everyone. I'll tell you what I liked about it and what wasn't so hot too. I'll also share with you some thoughts from friends of mine who have read it who didn't love it as much as me so you have some perspective on it before you buy it or commit the time to read it.

First, What I Loved About The Night Circus

An original, imaginiative place - the night circus. This book is like Harry Potter for adults. J.K. Rowling gave kids Hogwarts. Erin Morgenstern has given adults the night circus. For people who love magic and mystery, Morgenstern created an adult world where magic is real and the  mysterious is displayed for the visitor to the night circus. Morgenstern created a world that feels so complete - down to the smells of the foods served - that the reader begins to believe that she could actually go visit it. I want to go to the night circus! If you enjoy becoming immersed in a magical realm, then The Night Circus may be for you.

A beautiful love story that does not feel like a romance novel. I enjoy a romance novel from time to time, but I prefer my romance to come organically out of a story rather than be formulaic. If you like a great lovestory but don't enjoy romance novels per se, then the Night Circus may be for you. There are scenes between Marco and Celia that are so beautiful and so descriptive, you feel like you are right there with them. The whole scene that takes place between them in the house and with the pillow room - outstanding.

There are other things to commend The Night Circus, but for me these were the two highlights. Above all, it is a story that immerses you into a very fun, magical, intriguing and wholly original world. Not since I read the first Harry Potter book have I read a book more imaginative than this one.

Now, for what could have been improved and/or what's not so hot:

Lack of plot. Okay, there is a plot. Sort of. But the plot is the weak spot of the book. I had the opportunity to hear Erin Morgenstern do an interview on NPR about this book and I know that for a long time during the process, she just had pages and pages of description about the circus but no real plot. Efforts were made to create a plot, including the lovestory between Celia and Marco, but the plot still feels like an add-on. In a group discussion on this book, we all agreed that the best parts were the parts where the author described the circus, written in 2nd person. So if you are someone who can't stand to read a book that's not strong on plot, then this may not work for you.

Another complaint that I heard raised about the book was that it lacked depth of meaning or theme. For at least one reader I discussed this book with, she felt that it was just a lovely description of a circus and a bit of a lovestory with not much else. I think that's a valid point to raise. Frankly when I read it I was just enjoying being a voyeur of the circus so much, the lack of strong plot and/or lack of well developed theme didn't bother me at all.

So bottom line, I loved it and consider it one of my top reads of 2011. If you want to read a book that takes you on a fun ride to another world, then check out The Night Circus.

5 Hawks for The Night Circus

NEXT WEEK - Steampunk Week here on Natalie Wright's YA
Don't Miss It - Total Awesomeness!!!
Monday - A Steampunk Primer
Wednesday - Interview with Jason G. Anderson, author of the steampunk novel Gears of Wonderland
Friday - Review of Gears of  Wonderland

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Just say No - To SOPA

Today I was going to post about the Higgs-Boson, the so-called "God Particle." I had a lovely idea to explain what the "God Particle" is and why particle physicists are searching for it at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.
But I can't provide that post to you today.
Because Wikipedia, my go-to resource to get started on any type of informational article, is blocked out for the day in protest of SOPA. It's a powerful move intended to raise awareness of what some entertainment industry lobbyists are trying to push through Congress in the guise of anti-pirating legislation.
If you care about a free internet, then you should care about - and oppose - SOPA.
I could try to explain to you what SOPA is and why people who enjoy a free internet should oppose it, but frankly I can't do any better than this article posted on the CRACKED website. The article, titled The Only Argument on the Internet in Favor of SOPA, by Soren Bowie, is satire. So don't freak out and think that the author is supporting SOPA! But really, it's funny but I'm not sure that I've read a better explanation of what SOPA will do to our beloved, free internet.
What do you think? Is SOPA likely to pass? If so, are you concerned about its effects on the internet we know and love? Or do you think it will do its job - curtail pirating - but not affect the rest of us?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Do You Have a Dream?

In 1963 when Dr. King gave this famous speech, I was not yet born.
In 1963 when Dr. King gave delivered these powerful words, it was still legal for hotels and stores and public places to declare "Whites Only".

In the year 2012, nearly 50 years since this speech, it is like we are living in a different world. The President of the United States is a black man. Watch the whole speech then come back to that sentence. Does that fact show progress?

Our government has changed the laws that prevent the attainment of the dream. That was of course a huge first step. Segregation is illegal. Discrimination based on color is illegal.

He said: "I have a dream that my four little black children will grow up and be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Is that dream now realized? Or do we have a ways to go?

What do you think?

And what dreams do you have for our future and the future of our children?

Friday, January 13, 2012

5 Hawk Review of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I read this in one sitting, was up half the night, and went through a half a box of tissues. You WILL cry. And not just because this is a book about teenagers with cancer (it is) and not because John Green uses emotionally manipulative author tricks to pull the cry out of you (he doesn't - thank you John - 'cause I hate books that do that). You will cry because of the masterful way that John Green weaves a story full of love. You won't just cry when people get sick or when they talk about death (you will). But you'll maybe cry during tender parts where the love between Hazel and Augustus (Gus) is so real and so huge and so beautiful that you are filled with such appreciation for it that all you can do is cry. And you'll cry because Hazel understands the suffering of her parents. And you'll cry because of the amazing lover Hazel's small family has for each other.

But you won't just cry. You'll laugh too, sometimes maybe even out loud. John is his usual super-smart witty self and the repartee between Hazel and Gus is sometimes wickedly dark  and funny. And then you throw Isaac into the mix and the three-way conversation is delicious.

Many loved Green's Looking for Alaska. I did not love that book. I liked it fine, but honestly I felt that it tried too hard and was pretentious. That book made me a fan of John Green, but not a mega fan.

The The Fault in Our Stars tackles some of the same issues as Looking for Alaska but with so much more maturity and grace, that I can hardly believe it is by the same writer (except that it most certainly is - Green's unique voice is here and familiar to Green fans). But Green has had time to mature, both as a writer and a person, and I don't think you could ask for better treatment of such a tough and emotional subject as Green's tender hand in The Fault in Our Stars.

Given that the book deals with death, and the inevitability that one feels from the start that a death will happen (it is a book about cancer after all), the book appropriately discusses existential questions: What is the point of all this? Is there a God? Is there life after death? I got the sense that John Green argued this theme with himself by way of three characters: Hazel,  Gus and a cynical author Peter Van Houten. There's little to no attempt here on the part of the author to tell us what to think or provide some grand answer (though perhaps through Hazel's father's simple yet profound statements on the topic we get as close as we can to an answer). And to address a topic like this and not provide grand statements and "answers" takes a hand of restraint on the part of an author. I think this hand of restraint can only be exercised by an experienced author at the top of his game.

My only fault with the whole book is that Hazel does not sound like a 16 year old girl - she sounds like John Green pretending to be a 16 year old girl. But just a few pages in, you'll forget that she sounds like John Green because you're so invested in her and Gus and the other characters that you'll forgive this one little fault.

If I could give more than five stars I would. This is a knock out of the park homerun of a book.
Thank you John Green for writing it.

5+ Hawks                    

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Welcome to Writer Chat Wednesday

Ahh, it's Wednesday. Hump day. Mid-week slump.

What better way to spice up the mid-week than with Writer Chat Wednesday?

Last week I announced my commitment to bringing you video book reviews on Fridays. I'm also starting a weekly segment called "Writer Chat" each Wednesday.

I've lined up some great writers to chat it up with in the coming weeks, including Jason G. Anderson, Addison Moore and Joanna Penn with many more to come.

Stay tuned for writer-to-writer talks (some via Skype) with some of today's best-selling and up and coming authors.
If you have any questions for the authors I've listed above, put them below in comments. Who knows, I may even ask them ; )

Have a great hump day and happy sailing toward your weekend.

I'll be away this Wednesday so this week I'm reposting a writer chat with Tamara Rose Blodgett that I did last year. I'll have to chat with her soon to catch up on her newer releases!

I recently read Indie author Tamara Rose Blodgett's paranormal YA novel "Death Whispers."  It's unlike anything I've ever read and I was impressed with the realistic dialogue between her main character, a 13 year old boy, and his friends.  I recommend this book to all teens, but especially boys (there is a link below to order from Amazon).

I spoke with Tamara about "Death Whispers," as well as other stuff.

Natalie Wright (NW): In your novel "Death Whispers," a young adult novel in the paranormal genre, your protagonist Caleb Hart is a 14-year-old boy.  What inspired you to write a male main character in the first person?

Tamara Rose Blodgett (TRB):  I was a little intimidated to try third [person] POV with my first novel. (Actually, “Bloodsingers,” is my first, but will publish in autumn.) Using a male protagonist was a slick choice for me as I am a mother of four! My youngest is almost fifteen, so I felt pretty confident about delivering something realistic. To say the dialogue portions, “really flowed,” wouldn't cover it!
I got over my intimidation and used third with, “The Pearl Savage.” I was excited to show four different POV's in that work. The narrative is not so intimate as first, but it lends a degree of depth that is difficult to obtain in first without effort. In my opinion, the novel predicates the POV.

NW:  It seems like most YA books in this paranormal genre have female main characters.  What has been the reaction of readers to Caleb and his buddies, the "Js"?

TRB:  Readers are diggin' on the J's! Caleb wants to blend in so bad he can taste it. Readers have liked that Caleb's familial situation is a positive environment (also atypical in YA Lit), and root for him because he tries to do the right thing. Everyone seems really pleased with the dialogue and I'm super-happy about that!
I am not sure that a lot of readers get “fed” the right “take” on teenage males in a lot of YA literature. Of course, for the writing of DW, I could only offer what I “knew.”  My sons were the catalyst of what made me get serious about writing DW. They thought the “soft” males in books with dialogue that didn't “ring” true was tiresome. They couldn't see themselves in the characterization(s) and therefore the work didn't resonate fully. Of course, there were a few fave books that they've enjoyed, but the majority lacked that edge that felt, “real-male.”

NW:  I love your dialogue, especially the banter between Caleb and his friends Jonesy and John.  Do you have any real life inspirations for your dialogue?

TRB:  Thank you Natalie! Ah...see above. Joking! Seriously, that is all REAL dialogue. I've used things that I've heard through the years and mixed it all up into a colorful and (hopefully) comedic mix predicated on each character's personality. I “hear” them in my head (that sounds so alarming, I know), and intrinsically understand which teen would say what. It all makes sense. Although I have to admit a profound, “soft spot” for Jonesy who cannot seem to help himself, regardless of circumstance (he is never edited in my work...oh my).  He is fearlessly driven and without a filter. His honesty to be who he is, is fearsome! The diction in this book is regional and there is a lot of slang used that had to be handled in such a way that would make it understood. So far, I think the readers are enjoying it as “fresh.”

NW:  "Death Whispers" is set in the future and you introduce some interesting concepts.  The gadget that intrigues me the most is the "pulse" phone where the characters don't have to dial a number or even touch the screen to get to the speed dials.  They just think the person they want to speak to, the phone pulses them and then they proceed to carry on a conversation without speaking out loud - only through thought.
What inspired you to create the pulse technology?

TRB:  Oh. This is where I'd like to sound really witty. Huh. Truthfully, the whole concept just came to me out of nowhere. I will say that teens use of cells had to be incorporated in the book because it's so critical in their social structure. I saw pulse tech. as the viral answer to cells in that era of the future.  Once I understood where I was going with it, I did a couple days of research to get a feel for how viable it would read. Basically, in my thought process, it is a possible future...a viral future. It is a matter of time before brain signatures will be tracked, identified, monitored and incorporated into everyday life. That is how I see it.
In book 2, pulse technology grows and becomes subtly more, and with it, the downfalls associated with its “completeness” are showcased as well. Nothing comes without price.

NW:  In "Death Whispers," the plot centers around a pharmaceutical invention that inoculates (not sure that's the right word for it) babies to turn on? or ramp up? their genes so that when they hit puberty (at approximately age 12-13), most kids get special abilities and they get expressed during this time.  So you've got teenagers that are pyromancers and seers and of course necromancers - like your main character - and other abilities.

TRB:  I totally love genetics and know just enough to be dangerous! The premise revolves around the basis of humans having genetic markers and some having paranormal ones (all of those as different [potentially] as eyes). The inoculation allows the markers potential to manifest. The pharmaceutical moguls were very focused on their profit margin; not on the consequence of what these powers would mean to the power structure between adults and teens.
*Feeling very un-witty* again. The best way for me to describe this is: I get an idea. Then, I mull it over. At some point after the initial idea, I will get a second idea. They collide and mix together to make a story. The whole story forms in my head. Then! I must write as quickly as possible to get it all down. There is no “writer's block,” (thank you God). I sit down every day, (read the prior days 3K words) and the next scene is there for me to write. It's like the characters are alive and I just write down what they're doing/saying. It feels a little like cheating. I don't know how the process is for other authors at all. My “outline” is a 3x5 card with a few plot lines I need to remember to write about. One thing that I do keep is my character list and a few words after each one that identify them to me. That has been critically important.

NW:  In "Death Whispers," the main character talks about food a lot.  Were you hungry when you wrote it? *chuckle*  Seriously, some books are filled with descriptions of food, others don't mention it at all.  Why was it important to you to describe and discuss food?

TRB:  That's funny that you mention this! Food is totally important to teen boys (not showing their obsession with it in this series would be remiss). I can't overstate this enough! Those are the meals that my family and their friends have enjoyed. Those are meals I made (written in the book, I thieved liberally from that). Before Caleb has a pet, gets the girl and the complications start, the rhythm of his home life is an abiding comfort for him; the meals, the routine. I hoped to establish that for the reader. I felt Caleb needed a “touchstone” with all the chaos that ensues. Although important still (food remains important until those boys get out of their growth spurt!), in book 2, Caleb has other distractions and food runs a distant third. Of course, he's a bigger kid in DS! Food is still mentioned, of course. * smiles *

  You self-published "Death Whispers" as well as "The Pearl Savage" (Book 1 of the Savage Series).   What led you to self-publish?

TRB:  I did submit DW to a small list of agents and received mainly rejections but a couple of agents gave me suggestions and one agent said he'd look at the [full] manuscript after I revised it. That one comment gave me the confidence that (maybe) my story was good enough to go forward with on my own. The agents really liked the premise, they thought it was unique. But, in the end, I was like a lot of Indies. I saw the success of Hocking, McQuestion and Locke and thought, why not? I am so glad I did! The potential for people to enjoy your work, artistic control and most importantly, getting your book in the hands of your readers at your own pace is an absolute benefit as an Indie. Not so much with traditional publishing. Especially exciting for someone like myself, who can write a book every three months. Traditional publishing usually constrains that to a book per year! That used to drive me bananas waiting for the next release from my fave authors *rolls eyes*!

NW:  Have you seen any downsides or disadvantages to self-publishing?

TRB:  Editing. It is an absolute bear. It is very difficult to see your own mistakes and they're usually little things, which make it even harder. I am thankful when a reader mentions an issue, I can go right to my work and address it immediately. With “Death Speaks,” I was very fortunate to finally have three Betas to help with that common issue. It's critical that my reader receives the cleanest copy I am capable of.

NW:  What are the upsides of self-publishing for you?

TRB:  Like I touched on above: faster publication of novels, artistic latitude (I don't think I would have gotten away with my dialogue in the laundry wash of editors from the Big Six), and interacting with my readers. I love the relationships I've developed with other Indies too. They're a great lot! Oh! Better royalties!

NW:  Will you continue to self-publish, or are you still looking for a contract with a traditional publishing house?

TRB:  I am open to traditional publishing but very happy being Indie right now. I don't have an ax to grind, I think a lot of these hybrids are doing well. (An author that sells their own e-books and a publishing house sells their paperbacks, for example.)

NW:  Do you have a "day job" in addition to being a writer?

TRB:  No. I was a journalist for about four years, but gave that up almost three years ago. I have been writing fiction since 2007. I am very fortunate to have a husband who supports me 100%.

NW:  What do you like to do in your spare time when not writing books, blogging, tweeting, facebooking or otherwise managing your writer empire?

TRB:  I am an avid reader and find myself only finishing about two books per week now that I am writing so much. I love to garden too and can be found doing that on every sunny day we have here in Alaska. (Yes, we have daylight for twenty hours right now; insane!). We (the fam) also watch episodes of whatever caustic show catches our fancy each Sunday night while porking through an embarrassing amount of treats. I usually do a fair amount of remodeling at different points of the year. I am an okay finish carpenter.

NW:  What are you working on now?

TRB: I am on final edits with “Death Speaks,” and it's in the hands of my wonderful Betas right now. As soon as DS publishes mid-month, I will begin a brutal revision on my first novel, “Bloodsingers.” I wrote that in 2007, then put the manuscript away. When I got the idea for the Death Series and finished both DW and TPS, I began plans to revise/edit “Bloodsingers.” I have a projected release of October but it may be earlier if I can get it put together sooner.  “The Savage Blood,” (book 2) should be something I take up after “Bloodsingers.” However, if the characters press too firmly inside my head I will be compelled to begin writing that work at the same time I edit “Bloodsingers.” I am led about by a ring in my nose because of my own creative processes! Ugh!

NW:  When can we expect the next in the Death series?

TRB:  “Death Speaks,” is expected to publish on or about August 15, 2011. “Death Screams,” (Death Series, Book 3) is expected to publish late Dec/early January of this year. I foresee five titles total: “Death Weeps,” Book 4 and “Death Unrequited,” Book 5. Maybe “Death” will go beyond, but at this time, those are the books that I have plots for in my head.

NW:  Can you give us any hints about what's to come for Caleb?

TRB:  In book 2, “Death Speaks,” Caleb and his fellow AFTD, Tiff Weller, are named “consultants” for the local police in the hope of finding the killer of the innocents from book one. Everyone is in high school now and with that comes a greater sense of adulthood looming with regard to all aspects of maturation. The kids' relationships evolve and become more, new characters are introduced and loose ends to the minutest detail are wrapped up. There's [even] more of the following in book 2: romance, zombies, Onyx, Clyde, action, suspense and several new supporting characters are introduced. I notched up the comedy too.
Book 3, “Death Screams,” will feature Jeffrey Parker and Sophie Morris more intimately. And, of course...Jonesy! Jonesy will always have a starring role...

Tamara Rose Blodgett is a “thinking-out-of-the box” paranormal enthusiast who believes there's a 95% chance zombies do not exist; but loves to write as if they do. I'm from Alaska and have worked as an online journalist in the past. I enjoyed writing, Death Whispers, and am hard at work on book two, Death Speaks, (pub. Aug. 2011). My paranormal romance, The Pearl Savage, published on June 15. In my spare time I'm a [reluctant] serial-re-modeler, project-slave and big time, in-my-pants reader (surprise!). I do a great deal of day-dreaming about impossible scenarios and events, writing books to capture them in stories for you~ Side note: Gnomes should be exterminated.

Here's how to reach Tamara:

*I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Natalie for graciously allowing me this forum to talk about my books. I would also thank my readers for taking their time to read my stories. :)

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